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Pondicherry Weekend Break

Pondicherry (now Puducherry) is about 160kms from Chennai on the East Coast of the country, which was once a French colony, is quintessentially French with a Tamil twist to it. In the French Quarter of this city, the buildings and walls are coloured unmistakably French and the streets still carry the names. Here you could find yellow coloured churches and local hindu temples with traditional sculptered pillars. Here, people celebrate Bastille Day along with France and take part in French national elections. Its a beautiful fusion of cultures and traditions co-existing peacefully in this state.

You would find a lot of French nationals living here as locals, mingling with Tamil population with ease but retaining their cultures and tradition.

How to reach Pondicherry?
The city is well connected by road with most major cities of Tamil Nadu. Major gateway is Chennai with its International Airport and rail connectivity with other parts of the country. Once in Chennai, a drive on the most scenic East Coast Road (ECR) bordering the Bay of Bengal would take you to Pondy (as is known locally) in about 3hrs.

Where to stay?
Pondicherry offers a wide range of accommodation from economic lodges and guest houses to 5 Star rated hotels & resorts according to one’s budget. Then there are old traditional Tamil mansions transformed into heritage hotels offering the feel of local culture. And the many beach resorts lining the famous Coromandel Coast within Pondicherry and also all way along the ECR from Chennai.
Personally, I would suggest staying in the French Quarter, just around the Goubert Avenue, to get the real feel of Pondy. With the seafront just a street away and most pubs & eateries within easy reach.

What to see?
The French Quarter or Ville Blanc, in itself is an experience beyond words. You could go on a Heritage Walk around this area, which is conducted by INTACH, an NGO. Here, you would find many buildings which are examples of the timeless French design and flair. Goubert Avenue lines the Promenade, which is the most popular and frequented by large crowds throughout the week.

Pondy is famous for its beaches as well, namely, Auroville Beach, Serenity Beach and the Paradise Beach being the most popular. The Promenade is a seafront which gets crowded every evening with tourists and local population enjoying the views and local snacks. At the other end of this avenue, you could find Sea Gull Restaurant, a very popular bar & restaurant with the locals and tourists alike, due to its proximity to the sea.

One could enjoy the day at Chunnambar Boat House, which offers boat ride in the lake. This gets extremely crowded during weekends, festivals and other holidays.

For the spiritually inclined tourists, a visit to Aurobindo Ashram is a must. The Ashram centre is at Rue de la Marine. Another world famous place not to miss is Auroville, an international community centre, where people from different countries around the World live together as a community. Here you would find a golden dome which is called Matri Mandir, which is a spiritual centre.
Also, you could find some ancient christian churches and hindu temples dating back to many centuries.

What to eat?
If you are a foodie, you would definitely enjoy Pondicherry. You would find restaurants serving authentic traditional chettinadu cuisines as well as authentic french cuisines. Also, a variety of other cuisines are also available. You could find many a seafood restaurants serving delectible dishes. Then you would find the fusion of local spices and french ingredients being served tastefully.
Search and find Baker’s Street, for they serve freshly baked authentic french breads & pastries and it’s run by a french national. Also, make sure to buy authentic ‘Mango Hill’ Cheese made by another french family settled here in Pondicherry.

Shopping
Pondicherry is famous for many a products made by the residents of Auroville, be it varieties of incensed candles, cheese or handicrafts. Also, you could pick up artefacts from the pavement hawkers lining the streets.

If you need a short break, to relax in a whole new ambience, Pondicherry is the best place to head to.